Self-driving vehicles (SDVs) - A policymaker perspective

Thursday, 10 November 2016

by: Qurius

When it comes to urban environments and SDVs, there are two major questions:

  • How disruptive will these vehicles actually be in transforming the city of today?
  • And how can city governments take advantage of autonomous technology to achieve broader goals with respect to urban mobility and livability?

Urban policymakers want city inhabitants to have ready access to safe and affordable mobility. This goal can be elusive. Pedestrian and cyclist safety presents considerable challenges in many cities, and the most common accident- and fatality-reduction measures — stronger laws, awareness campaigns, tighter enforcement, and improved infrastructure — are far from universally effective.

Compared with such measures, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) — and in the long run, SDVs — provide much more effective ways of improving road safety.

SDV BCG policy maker perspective self driving

Policymakers see widespread SDV benefits for both individuals and society

The last-mile problem

Urban policymakers want to provide equitable access to affordable transportation for all sociodemographic segments, wherever they live and work. To achieve this goal it might be necessary to extend more transportation services to less densely populated areas.

Policymakers talk of solving the “last-mile problem” for citizens — getting them from their home or office to the closest public-transit point (and back). The last mile can be a particular challenge for people living on the outskirts of a city, where access to public transportation can be distant.

Addressing this issue by expanding public-transportation networks — adding lines and capacity to improve the passenger experience with greater frequency and convenience — is, in many cases, difficult to support financially because utilisation rates are often low.

Nobody thinks that private-car ownership will fully disappear

Nobody thinks that private-car ownership will fully disappear. Policymakers expect to encourage the adoption of shared SDVs, but they will not want to force it. They anticipate using a range of instruments to make private-car use less attractive—for example, by increasing the expense of parking or imposing more-aggressive congestion-pricing schemes.

Plenty of officials are cautious about the role of SDVs in their cities. “We need to better understand the impact this is going to have on our city before we take a position,” one said. And another said, “We would like to see it work in other cities first before we try it out for ourselves.”

SDV BCG municipal traffic management system

Municipal traffic management systems to help control and steer SDVs

A liberal extract from 'Self-driving vehicles, robo-taxis, and the urban mobility revolution', from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.